These Beautiful Blue Turkey-Like Birds Have Tiny Brains and Huge Social Networks
by Jason Daley/Smithsonian.com
One hallmark of an intelligent animal is the development of multilevel societies, full of complex relationships. Humans, baboons, giraffes, elephants and even dolphins divide themselves into family units that are part of larger clans that may have ties or relationships to other groups. Keeping tabs on dozens—or even hundreds of social relationships—requires the firepower of big mammalian brains—or so scientists thought.
A new study published this week in the journal Current Biology about an East African bird species with a pretty small brain reveals that animals may not necessarily necessarily need to be smart to be social.
While ornithologist Damien Farine of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior was completing his postdoctoral research, he actually didn’t study birds at all. Initially, he analyzed multilevel relationships among baboons in Kenya. It was then when he first noticed that the vulturine guineafowl wandering around his research site seemed to live in stable groups and exhibited some of the same social behaviors as the primates, reports Elizabeth Preston at the New York Times.